It is important that employers are sensitive to all employees’ religious and secular beliefs over the Christmas period. While it is likely that many staff will be celebrating Christmas to some extent, not all will, and some may want to keep sufficient annual leave for a religious celebration at a different time of year.
Employers also need to be mindful about the way in which they deal with festive-related workforce planning issues.
Leave requests over the Christmas period are a case in point. Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees are required to give notice to employers of their intention to take annual leave, and employers are entitled to serve a counter-notice refusing the leave.
In practice, the statutory position is usually varied by a term in an employee’s contract of employment requiring them to obtain approval from their employer before taking holiday. At peak holiday periods, it is then up to the employer to manage and cover workloads.
A practical way to deal fairly with competing requests is to vary the normal leave request procedure and ask all employees to submit their proposed holiday dates for the Christmas period in, for example, October, in order that the employer can plan a cover or leave rota.
Melanie Lane is a partner in the employment group at Olswang